Cairo and The Pyramids

Trip Start Dec 10, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Day 382 - Wednesday 14th March - Luxor
Today we swam and baked in the sun. Poor Wong has done his neck again so he had a massage. The guy wanted to know why his wife did not want one....Wayne was trying to think of a polite way to tell him that it was because Egyptian men creeped her out and the last thing she wanted was one to touch her!!!!
We had to go outside the hotel to make a phone call....bad soon as you step out the door you get harassed none stopped, followed down the street and they would not even shut up while we were trying to make a phone call....very very frustrating!!  Rest of the day we spent swimming and working on our tans!! Tonight we went to the Souk (markets) and just got harassed even more. However, we found one shop where the people were nice and we got talking to some of the local girls who were in the shops having henna tattoos. They all wanted pictures with us. Although Gem is not a lover of tattoos she was really impressed with these guys art work and ended up getting a henna tattoo of the eye of horus on her ankle...will be interesting to see how long it lasts.
Day 383 -Thursday 15th March - Luxor to Cairo
Up bright and early to get take the 10 hour train ride to Cairo. Second class was not that bad, except for the toilets which were just horrid and putrid and really beyond any point of description. They really have no sense of cleanliness here and as we got past villages you see piles of rubbish just thrown everywhere. This really is a third world country and the living conditions of some people are just living in huts made from date palm leaves on the side of the Nile. We were happy to see that we were not the only foreigners in our carriage and we were joined by an older couple from New Zealand. Very funny coincidence as they had just finished a 3 month tour motor homing in Europe, were off to Turkey next and then back to Australia. We finally got to Giza and got Micheal Schumacher for a taxi driver who weaved in and out of traffic like a crazy man. He had thrown our luggage on the roof and Wayne and I were watching anxiously waiting for one of our suitcases to go flying off the roof. At least he took us to the right hotel and we crashed for the night!!
Day 384 -Friday 16th March - Cairo
This morning we went to the Egyptian museum which houses more than 120,000 relics and antiquities from almost every period of Egyptian history. Some of the stuff in here was amazing and the things from Tutankhamen's tomb were unbelievable. Unfortunately, the museum itself is so old and everything is highly disorganized. Most stuff is not labeled or if it is, it has not been updated from over a century ago when the museum was opened... which is disappointing given that this is a major tourist attraction with thousands of tourists paying to enter each day. Next we visited the Citadel of Saladin where the view over the city was awesome (although there is nothing pretty about Cairo) and it was amazing to see out behind the scrawl of the city the Pyramids sticking out. The Mohammad Ali Mosque was enormous with its huge central dome and minarets and supporting half domes. Even though you pay to get in here, it is like most of the places in Egypt that even tourist guards here ask you for "Baksheesh" or a tip for pointing out the obvious. On the way back we visited the Khan al Khalili souk and made our ways through the huge crowds and tried to avoid the shop keepers and café waiters who try anything to get you into their shop. One of them was hassling Gem and getting in her face saying "What do you want" she snapped and said "She just wanted to be left alone" and he got a bit of a shock and shut up and apologized....he certainly would not be used to having a woman stand up for herself because in this country they are treated like commodities and second class citizens.
Day 385 -Saturday 17th March - Cairo
We were brave and went back to the Khan al Khalili souk in the hope tht it would not be as packed during the day. It was an interesting experience as it was full of tiny streets, some paved other just mud and garbage, with shop keepers constantly hassling you to come into their shops. We went to a perfume shop, specifically because they did not hassle us, and we had a great time trying all the wonderful perfumes and oils...of course this is one of the things that Egypt is famous for as the ancient Egyptians used to use all the oils in the mummification process. They are so cheap and smell just like all the designer brands. We bought a heap of them and we think we made the shop keepers week and he gave us big kisses, some free gifts and free drinks. This afternoon we made our way out to Pyramids and we managed to get a taxi for 20 LE which is $4 AUD, which is amusing because the concierge at our hotel said it was 125 LE there and back....lucky we read lonely planet and were a wake up to this because of course the concierge gets a cut back off every taxi he organizes. The experience of going to the pyramids was not a very fun one. The people here were like wild animals and as soon as they see a taxi driver has tourists in his car, they jump in and start hassling you, they jumped in front of the taxi so he could not go any further, they jumped on the roof and it was rather like being back in Gibraltar with monkeys jumping all over the car. The pyramids were closed so we had to try and find out way to where the Sphinx was. Another interesting experience...all the locals try and get you on their horse and cart, others point the way for you but you are never sure if any of them are telling the truth or just trying to scam you into their shop. We walked through a village that was just outside the walls of the pyramid area and this was real life...we walked through the slum areas and it was full of slum houses and the streets just full of garbage everywhere. Of course within no time we had a guy befriend us and shown us the way...which we were grateful for...but them of course he tried to get us into his friend's papyrus shop. We tipped him but like a lot of them you give them something which is fair and they just keep asking for more. Gem was freaking out the entire time as the men just look at her like a piece of fresh meat and she felt really uncomfortable about walking alone through this area or going into a tiny shop full of men. We don't think they would do anything as they really can't afford for anything to happen to tourists but this does not stop them from leering at you or making comments. This really pisses us off because we know if Wayne was to say to one of their women some of the things they say to western women, they would be outraged!!!
We found the KFC and Pizza hut shop where we had read you could watch the sound and light show from. We were joined by a nice Japanese boy on the roof top and were surprised that there were not more people around as we had read that this was a really popular spot. Japanese are such polite people but even this boy had said that he had had enough of the people here and he was finding it really difficult. This light show was better than the one at Luxor but we are glad we did not pay for it as it is quite cheesy and the viewpoint from the roof was great. Back to the hotel to wash off the grime and dirt of the day...that is one thing we have both noticed here...everyday you just get filthy and covered in dirt and everything is so grimy.
Day 386 -Sunday 18th March - Cairo
Back to the pyramids and the Sphinx today. This time we only had one guy jump on the car but thankfully our taxi driver told him to get lost. As soon as you get out of the taxi you just get harassed constantly. The tourist police do a pretty good job of keeping them at bay but you still get approached every couple of minutes and it just starts to get on your nerves. Despite this the Pyramids were amazing and just the single blocks were as tall as us. We decided not to go inside one as we have heard that it can get pretty claustrophic. We spent ages walking around the three pyramids and then walked down to the Sphinx and sat there and admired it. We like the quote in lonely planet that seeing the sphinx for the first time is like meeting a TV star in real life...always smaller than you imagined!!  Nevertheless it was still impressive even without its original beard or nose!! Later we were walking to get a taxi and a little kid who tried to sell us some bookmarks (just like the hundreds we have been offered all over Egypt from other little kids) told us that he was hungry so we went inside KFC and bought him some minute we were surrounded by kids and others all wanting's so hard but you just can't give to them all. We finally got back to the hotel and were approached by another guy wanting to talk about Australia...he of course took us into his shop on the pretense of wanting to practice his English and talk about Australia and that we would "break his heart if we refused his hospitality"...well what a surprise next minute he is putting the hard sell on you to buy stuff in his perfume shop. Wayne is too soft hearted in dealing with these people...Gem is at the point where she just wants to tell them to piss off. Unfortunately, you just can't be nice to any of them because they just don't take no for an answer and never leave you alone.
So tomorrow it is goodbye to Egypt. It was an amazing experience to see the amazing sights and history but overall we are not sure if we would ever come back here as we have mixed feelings about the place. It is so disappointing that in a country who relies on 95% of its income from tourism, that they can't even organize their main attractions or keep them clean. They make so much money off the entry to the Pyramids yet there is no order with signs or maps, no proper walkways with dangerous holes everywhere, no bins and the area is just covered in filth. It is quite disappointing given that it has been a major tourist attraction for hundreds of years. The people constantly hassling you and trying to rip you off is also really annoying and you just can't talk to anyone or believe anything that they say and a lot of them are still never grateful when you give them a big tip and keep asking for more. We hate being rude to people but unfortunately they just don't take no for an answer and you have to ignore them or be rude to get them to leave you alone. Lets hope Turkey is better. 
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